Trump's Former Advisor May Have Been Willing to Sell a Major Turkish Opposition Leader for Millions
Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, has reportedly widened his focus to the relationship between former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and Turkey.
The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources familiar with Mueller’s probe, reports that Mueller is investigating allegations that Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., were to be paid up to $15 million for handing over to the Turkish government Fethullah Gülen. Gülen, a Muslim cleric living in rural Pennsylvania, was accused by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of masterminding a failed coup against him last year. Erdogan subsequently imprisoned or dismissed tens of thousands of officials, army officers, academics, journalists and other suspected opponents in a crackdown that further consolidated his already strong hold on power.
Flynn, President Donald Trump’s first National Security Advisor, was forced out just weeks into Trump’s term amid revelations that he misled Vice President Mike Pence and others about his contacts with Russian officials before the election and during the transition. His name has frequently come up around Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in its election meddling, something Trump has steadfastly denied. Mueller unsealed indictments against Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort and Manafort’s deputy Rick Gates late last month.
A lawyer for Flynn didn’t comment to The Journal or immediately respond to a request for comment from Fortune.
The Journal reports that federal authorities have asked at least four people about a meeting at the 21 Club in New York City in mid-December, after Trump’s victory but before he took office in January. The meeting allegedly involved discussions about transporting Gülen to Imrali, an island prison in the Sea of Marmara.
Flynn’s ties to the Turkish regime had already attracted attention before he was fired. Former CIA Director James Woolsey said in March that he had attended a meeting with Flynn and Turkish government ministers in which the removal of Gülen outside of the U.S. extradition process was “hypothetically” discussed.
Federal records disclosed later showed that Flynn’s consulting company, Flynn Intel Group, had received $530,000 for work that “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.” Flynn Intel Group only registered as a foreign agent at the start of March, after Flynn had been forced out of the administration.